Thursday night's celebration at Town Hall was about the power of service.
In the form of Martin Luther King Jr., that concept moved the nation, and in the life of Braintree's "guardian angel" Sonya "Sunny" Shaw, it touched countless lives.
The simplest gestures, like giving someone a coat or paying for their child's summer camp, are for Shaw the foundation of service.
"Kindess, no matter how small, is never lost," Shaw said. "There were so many people along the way I needed in my life. Those small kindnesses added up to the person you see here today."
Shaw, who created and nurtured Braintree's annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peacemaker Celebration, received the award in the event's 22nd year.
For three decades, Shaw taught elementary school students, retiring to help raise her grandchildren, who she walked to and from school every day. She has been a substitute teacher in retirement, but most importantly continued with "helping other people's lives be Sunny," said Bill Hedlund, the town's former recreation director, a longtime friend of Shaw and one of last year's Peacemaker recipients.
"Sunny Shaw has a glowing personality morning, noon and night, day after day," Hedlund said. "That's how she's always been. That's why we call her Sunny."
One of Shaw's initiatives – The Kids Clothes Closet at Emmanuel Episcopal Church – reminded Rabbi Van Lanckton of Temple B'nai Shalom of the description in Genesis of God giving clothing to Adam and Eve. It is an act described in the Talmud as a good deed to practice.
"What does it mean to make peace?" Van Lanckton said. "In a family, peace is not possible if the parents have to worry about providing food, shelter and clothing."
Shaw and her husband David, along with having their own children and grandchildren, raised numerous foster kids, Hedlund said. "Her resume of achievements is endless."
Among Shaw's examples of service have been serving on the boards of the Marge Crispin Center and Thayer Public Library, presiding over the League of Women Voters, holding a Town Meeting seat for more than 30 years, and chairing the Democratic Town Committee and Braintree Fair Housing Committee.
She is also a cancer survivor, fighting the disease with "grace and strength," Hedlund said.
In 1994, Congress established a national day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., whose "I Have a Dream Speech" resounded through the Town Hall auditorium Thursday night.
"The recipients of this award have kept King's memory alive," Mayor Joseph Sullivan said. "[Shaw] has answered King's call for service."